Foe tragedy eclipsed best African effort


Fri, Jun 07, 2013 - Page 18

The heart-related death of Marc-Vivien Foe, a couple of stunning victories and many defeats has been the lot of Africa in the FIFA Confederations Cup.

Cameroon midfielder Foe formed a strong spine of the 2003 Indomitable Lions, with goalkeeper Idriss Kameni, defender Rigobert Song and striker Samuel Eto’o, and the midfielder loaned to Manchester City by Olympique Lyonnais helped his country reach the semi-finals in France, before collapsing 72 minutes into the tussle with Colombia.

There was no player close to 28-year-old Foe as he slumped to the turf at the Stade de Gerland that had been his home for two seasons before the loan to City.

After attempts to resuscitate the Cameroon player on the field failed, he was stretchered off and medics spent 45 minutes trying to restart his heart before he was pronounced dead.

It was irrelevant that Cameroon won 1-0 to become the first and only African side to reach the final of a then-biennial tournament, which is now staged the year before a World Cup.

The decider was a sombre occasion, won for France by a Thierry Henry golden goal, with the teams carrying a giant picture of Foe on to the Stade de France pitch.

After Henry scored, captains Marcel Desailly and Rigobert Song raised the trophy together, and in the crowd a banner read: “A Lion never dies, it only sleeps.”

Born in capital city Yaounde, Foe was a 1.88m box-to-box midfielder who played for home-town club Canon Sportif de Yaounde, Racing Club de Lens, West Ham United, Olympique Lyonnais and Manchester City.

“To our friend — the Foe” read a tribute from a City supporter and a street near the Lyon stadium is named after the player with a joyous personality and infectious humor.

Cameroon began the 2003 Confederations Cup by claiming a notable scalp, Eto’o scoring a late goal to sink then world champions Brazil in Paris.

Egypt achieved a similar feat in Johannesburg four years ago, shocking 2006 World Cup winners Italy 1-0 courtesy of a Mohamed Homos goal close to halftime.

A few days before, the Pharaohs had wiped out Brazil’s 3-1 lead as Mohamed Shawky and Mohamed Zidan netted within 60 seconds, only for Kaka to score a late match-winning penalty.

Egypt did not even make the last four after a 3-0 thrashing from the US condemned the weary African champions to bottom place in the group.

An even worse fate befell them at the 1999 Cup — the fourth edition and the first held outside Riyadh — when they were humiliated 5-1 by Saudi Arabia.

South Africa were also two-time participants, with a last-of-eight 1997 placing following losses to the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay costing long-time coach Clive Barker his job.

Bafana Bafana fared better as 2009 hosts, holding semi-final rivals Brazil for 88 minutes before a magical Dani Alves free-kick broke local hearts.

Other African appearances were less impressive, with the Ivory Coast finishing last in the debut 1992 edition after conceding nine goals against Argentina and the US.

Cameroon lost two of three games at the 2001 Cup in Japan, as did Tunisia in Germany four years later and Nigeria were fourth of six sides, despite not losing at the 1995 tournament.

The Super Eagles get a second chance this month, facing Tahiti, Uruguay and Spain in Group B and hoping to improve on an African record of just eight wins and 32 goals from 30 games.